LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to Californians regarding potential scams targeting seniors during Medicare’s open enrollment period, from October 15 through December 7. During this time, senior citizens who are 65 years old and older should assess their Medicare plans and consider various plan options. Any Medicare plan changes that are made during open enrollment will be effective on January 1, 2016. In the course of evaluating Medicare plans, seniors should vigilantly ensure that they are not taken advantage of by Medicare scam artists who may misguide them, or attempt to obtain and misuse their personal information.
What to look out for
The Attorney General offers California consumers the following tips in order to protect themselves during Medicare’s open enrollment period:
• Consumers should not provide social security numbers or account information to callers who claim to be Medicare employees. Medicare employees will not call and request such information by phone.
• Seniors should not provide personal information to callers who claim to be calling on behalf of a doctor, hospital, or health agency. When seniors are uncertain about the identity of a caller, they should directly contact the organization in question.
• Medicare does not have door-to-door sales representatives. Seniors should be cautious of individuals posing as door-to-door sales representatives for Medicare, and should not allow such individuals into their homes.
• Be wary of offers to provide free medical exams or supplies. Dishonest companies may use these offers to obtain and misuse your personal information.
• Be careful of marketing promotions where a free lunch is offered to seniors in exchange for attending a presentation or signing up for a plan. Since federal law does not permit a free meal to be provided during the marketing of Medicare health or drug plans, anyone offering this arrangement should not be trusted.
• If a representative demands that billing information be provided by phone or on the web, refuse to provide such information and request a bill in the mail. Medicare plan representatives are not allowed to ask you for payment over the phone or web.
• A salesperson should not use aggressive sales tactics to force a senior into purchasing a Medicare product or plan that is unnecessary or unsuitable. If you encounter such tactics, do not make a decision until you have had a chance to discuss it with a trusted friend or relative who can assist you with determining what best suits your needs.
What to do if you are the victim of a Medicare scam
If you believe you are a victim of Medicare fraud, call and file a report at the Inspector General’s hotline: 1-800-447-8477. You can find more information here: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have prepared a convenient YouTube video titled “Medicare & You” that explains how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of Medicare fraud: To watch the video, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY9lmEKlu88.
The California Department of Insurance provides insurance protection for Californians and collects complaints on Medicare plans that are underwritten by insurance companies. To submit a complaint to the California Department of Insurance regarding a Medicare fraud or scam, please visit: https://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/101-help/index.cfm.
The California Department of Justice protects the rights of consumers and collects complaints on scams in order to identify patterns of wrongful activity. To submit a complaint to the California Department of Justice regarding a Medicare fraud or scam, please use one of the following complaint forms:
The California Department of Insurance regulates health plans that are underwritten by insurance companies. Information regarding the various health care options for seniors is available at http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0150-seniors/0300healthplans.
The California Department of Aging’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) offers information on Medicare and assistance with Medicare benefits. Learn more about HICAP at https://www.aging.ca.gov/HICAP.